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Critical Reviews™ in Neurobiology

ISSN Druckformat: 0892-0915
ISSN Online: 2375-0014

Archives: Volume 10, 1996 to Volume 20, 2008

Critical Reviews™ in Neurobiology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevNeurobiol.v10.i3-4.10
pages 265-290

Signal Processing in the Vomeronasal System: Modulation of Sexual Behavior in the Female Rat

Carol A. Dudley
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Physiology, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, Texas 75235-9040
Gopalan Rajendren
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Physiology, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, Texas 75235-9040
Robert L. Moss
Department of Physiology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75235-9040


Chemosensory cues detected by the vomeronasal (VN) organ modulate a variety of social interactions in many species. In particular, activation of the VN system by pheromones regulates sexual behavior in the rodent. Although the exact nature of stimulus access to the organ is not clearly defined, the neuroanatomical pathway connecting the VN organ to hypothalamic centers controlling reproductive function is well established and relatively straightforward. Electrophysiological techniques have provided insight into the signal transduction process throughout the VN system. Combining behavioral studies with immunocytochemical detection of immediate early genes and neuropeptides reveals that gonadotropin hormone releasing hormone (GnRH)-containing neurons are specifically activated by stimulation of the VN organ. Furthermore, some of the activated GnRH neurons project to the ventromedial hypothalamus where they are hypothesized to induce sexual responsiveness. Early anecdotal evidence of an influence of the VN organ on human reproductive events has been substantiated by more recent anatomical, behavioral, and electrophysiological studies. Thus, further deciphering of the signal transduction process within the VN system of the rodent may yield unique insights into behaviors associated with human reproduction.

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